Getty Images

FIFA defends refereeing, VAR criticism in press conference

Leave a comment

FIFA held its usual mid-tournament press conference a the 2019 Women’s World Cup to address the current state of refereeing at the event, and was on the defensive for much of the time due to recent criticism of decisions, laws, and technology.

Chairman of FIFA’s Refereeing Committee Pierluigi Collina was the main speaker, coming out with multiple defenses for incidents that have occurred in the tournament so far. The biggest topics of discussion were VAR use, goalkeeper actions on penalties, and new laws of the game. Instead of highlighting any mistakes that may have been made, Collina spent much of the time – complete with prepared visuals – defending decisions made that have drawn heavy fire.

First, Collina spent time saying how pleased he has been with the implementation of new laws that went into effect at the start of June. He said that in preparation for the changes in the laws of the game, teams were notified as early as December of last year about potential upcoming changes, and were given the ability to play with the new laws in friendlies starting in March to prepare for official changes starting in June. He then told reporters that FIFA sent officials to each team’s delegation upon arrival in France to get feedback and work through any questions the federations may have about new laws, which were apparently well received.

“I have to say that on none of these occasions we received any complaints, any questions…these changes were very well accepted as well as very well accepted in the competitions,” Collina said.

He then addressed the concerns of many, starting with goalkeeper encroachment on penalties, which has been a huge talking point in the Women’s World Cup. Collina’s general point was that the law has actually been relaxed, but technology allows referees to enforce the rule to a far greater extent than in the past, which makes for some jarring moments at first.

“The only issue has concerned penalty kicks, and honestly we have been a bit surprised,” Collina admitted of the criticism.

Collina then went on to verbalize about how fans must get used to the black and white nature of VAR which will give referees the ability to enforce rules such as offside or encroachment to a T, much like goal line technology helps decide whether a goal is in or not.

“If we have a tool that can show clearly without any doubt that there is an offside position and a goal is scored by the player who was in an offside position, it doesn’t matter if it was two centimeters or 20 meters. There is not a small or a big offside, there is an offside. We have a technology which was well received by the entire world which is goal line technology which allows us to see if the ball crossed the line by 0.5 centimeters, so if the ball is over the line by 0.5 centimeters, it is a goal. There is not a big goal or a small goal, it is a goal, it is a fact. If a foul is committed five centimeters outside the penalty area, it is a free kick. If it is five centimeters inside the penalty area, it is a penalty kick, there is no room for any discussion, we have to enforce what is written in the laws of the game. If a goalkeeper moves both feet off the goal line before the penalty kick is taken, we have no choice but to order the penalty kick to be retaken. I repeat, it is not a matter of a small encroachment or big encroachment, it is a matter of encroachment, and this is what we can do by using technology.”

He also then explained that while VAR can be used to enforce goalkeeper encroachment, the only time players will be called for encroachment into the penalty area on the opposite end is when an encroaching player is directly involved in a subsequent play should the goalkeeper keep the ball out. Otherwise, they are at the referee’s discretion and replay review does not come into play.

Finally, Collina made sure to explain that the Women’s World Cup was not considered an “experiment” for new laws, although he did not address the concept that the tournament has been made out to be an experiment for VAR.

“We didn’t consider the Women’s World Cup – which is our flagship tournament in 2019 as a World Cup – we cannot consider this competition as an experiment. I want only to remind you that the new version of the laws of the game have been implemented in Poland U-20 World Cup for the men, has been implemented in the Copa America, has been implemented in AFCON, and also here. So simply, they are implemented in all the competitions.”

Probably the most awkward moment of the press conference was as Collina gave statistics on the tournament so far, a graphic showed how the current tournament has produced 23 penalties to this point in the competition, already one more than the entire 2015 tournament. Collina seemed surprised to see this statistic and offered no explanation for the drastic increase, instead moving on quickly to his next slide.

Still, it must be noted that in a broad sense, Collina is right in his idea that at the end of the day, officials must enforce rules as black & white and, unless exceptions are officially logged in the future, hold players to the rules that are written. Referees are only able to enforce what is written, and for the most part the problems in the World Cup have not been with the use of technology, but rather the rules they enforce that need editing to accommodate the new availability of replay review.

You can watch the full press conference by clicking here.

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule ]

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.